What I find more interesting in Cambodia other than Angkor Wat is how its people coped up after the Khmer Rouge regime. It was a horrific time, at least in accordance with the books (and movies) I read. I am not very interested in wars and war paraphernalia, but I am interested in military tactics and effects of conflict to civilians, especially women and children. After our tour of Ta Phrom, which ended our Angkor Archaeological Park tour, we asked Kim to take us to the War Museum.
The road to the museum was small and I almost thought we got lost. But we entered a small parking space with lots of trees and no building in sight. There was a $5 entrance fee and I wanted to bet my $5 on something I could learn from the war — maybe the accounts of those who have been part of the war. My siblings did not bet their $5.
I could have bought an extra dinner with that $5. It was a small “museum.” What surprised me were the number of mango trees inside the museum. I thought there was some mistake until I realized they were displaying military vehicles and artillery in between those mango trees. I wished there were arrows/signs/markers as to what those on display were and why that specific display was significant to the war. Joel though loved going through the war vehicles, inspecting each one up close (without the danger of a real war). I guess the war museum is not for everybody.
While the museum didn’t speak to me as much as I wanted it to speak to me, it made me obsessively curious about the country, its history, and the dark Khmer Rouge period. While the great Angkorian empire lasted only until the 15th century, the monarchy remained until the French occupation and Cambodia’s social and political one-way structure continued. Kings remained kings. Elites remained elites. And, sadly, peasants remained peasants. Equality and equity were two words the Cambodia peasants may never have heard since time immemorial.
- First They Killed My Father, 2017, Angelina Jolie. (And, might as well read the autobiography in the same title by Loung Ung).